Skip to main content

Full text of "My Country And My People"

See other formats

IOO             MY    COUNTRY    AND    MY    PEOPLE

below how it really never quite satisfied even the Chinese, and
how that deficiency was made up for by a Taoist or Buddhist
supernaturalism. But this supernaturalism seems in China
to be separated in general from the question of the ideal of life:
it represents rather the spiritual by-plays and outlets that merely
help to make life endurable.

So true was Confucianism to the humanist instinct that
neither Confucius nor any of his disciples was ever made a god,
although many lesser literary and military figures in Chinese
history were duly canonized or deified.   A common woman,
who suffered wrongs and faced death to uphold her chastity,
might in an amazingly short time become a popular local
goddess, prayed to by all the villagers. Typical of the humanist
temperament is the fact that although idols were made of
Kuan Yti, a brave and loyal general in the time of the Three
Kingdoms, idols were not made of Confucius, nor of the
ancestors in the halls of ancestral worship.   Iconoclasts have
really nothing to do when they enter a Confucian temple.
In the Confucian and ancestral temples there are merely
oblong wooden tablets, inscribed with characters bearing the
names of the spirits they represent, having as little resemblance
to idols as a calendar block. And in any case, these ancestral
spirits are not gods, but merely human beings who  have
departed but who continue to take an interest in their progeny
as they did in their lifetime.   They can perhaps, if they are
great souls, protect their descendants, but they themselves
need their progeny's protection and succour through offerings
of food for their hunger and burnt paper money for their sundry
expenses in hell, from which place it is the duty of their children
to save them by a Buddhist mass.   In a word, they are to be
cared for and served as they have been cared for and served
by their children in their old age.   That is about as close as
Confucianism comes to religion in the matter of worship.
/   I have often observed with interest the differences between
a religious culture like that of Christendom and a frankly
agnostic culture like that of the Chinese^ and how these differ-
ences are adapted to man's inner needs, which I assume are
essentially the same for all human races.   These differences
correspond to the threefold actual functions of religion, as